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A Rare Museum The only engineering museum of Odisha is languishing following the government apathy

Updated: June 22, 2013 5:04 pm

Er. Akshya Pattanaik (74) of Bolagarh, Khurda District, is certainly a whimsical person. His whim has been to establish a state-level engineering museum at his birthplace, Bolagarh, for long. To convert that typical yet innovative idea into a real one, he has been striving very hard for the last two and half decades in his own capacity. Despite reaching at the fag end of his life, he has been maintaining his struggle against every odd, and has never given up.

What a marvellous collection! Really, it is a place for amusement, learning and research. Simply, you cannot abandon that place unless you go through the complete array of preserved items. If you can spare time, then have a glimpse at least once at the Ghanshyam Pattanaik–Pindi ki Srichandan museum at Bolagarh, 38 km from district headquarters of Khurda. Here you can meet its founder-cum-curator, 74-year-old Er. Akshya Pattanaik, an ever-smiling exuberant, proactive and friendly person, who quickly demonstrates all of his precious collections to the visitors with incessant narration regarding the background history of each and every article preserved there. The visitors get enriched with information and delighted with ecstasy. Receiving the visitors to his home-based museum his joy knows no bounds. Unless he shows all of his collections he never lets you depart.

His museum preserves several precious and rare articles, which are in a state of oblivion now-a-days. There are 300 radios of various makes, nations and of different ages, and most of them belong to pre-Independence period. There are 30 types of ancient telephones, 10 types of gramophones, 15 types of ancient film projectors, 20 types of cameras, 10 types of lanterns (made in America, Germany and Australia), 70 types of clocks, 20 types of table clocks, one of those is more than 150 years old. There are 10 types of <charakhas>, and several types of musical instruments.

Among the rare objects and gadgets preserved in the museum are a Sweden-made kerosene-driven refrigerator, a Spain-made typewriter, an ancient tin drum made by Caltex company, which in fact was used for carrying petrol from Kolkata-based Burmah Shell company by train for lorry owners of Odisha in pre-Independence period. There is a typical lantern used by railway personnel to signaling night trains and a ceramic water filter made in England. There are three glasses of the famous glass factory of Baranga of the bygone era. There is a 100-year-old barber’s instrument that is a knife grip made of deer skin and a unique coal-operated pressure cooker.

Furthermore, there is a rare 2.50-rupee note printed in 1987, a rare rupee currency printed by Japanese government in 1944 (probably when Netaji Subash Chandra Bose attacked the British with the help of Japanese army through Burma in 1944). The museum also preserves a rare 10-rupee note signed by the first Governor of RBI CD Deshmukh during the British period. An invitation card was sent by the then Munsif of Bolangir in 1942, on the eve of the inauguration of the State High Court, to the father of the Akshya Pattanaik, which has been preserved in the museum. There are nearly 2000 postage stamps of 95 countries. Also there are around 200 types of postcards, envelopes and inland letters from the British period to date.

In the museum are preserved nearly 1,000 currency notes of 45 countries. There are around 1,200 coins belonging to 70 countries, including the rare ones belonging to Tipu Sultan, Akbar the Great, the Satavahans, Vijay Nagar kingdom, princely states of Gwalior and Indore. The museum contains more than 100 varieties of palm leaf manuscripts. It is very fascinating to note that more than 300 varieties of paddy samples have been kept in the museum. Almost all those items placed within the museum are unique and carry much significance. These collections simply reminisce one of the extent to which science and technology was developed in the days of yore.

Residing at a remote countryside, depriving of any external assistance and facing apathy of the government, this man’s single-handedly yet Herculean effort in establishing an engineering museum has certainly turned a cynosure of all eyes, and talk of the locality. Er. Pattanaik has been drawing a lot of laurels and appreciations for all of his precious collections preserved in the museum to the spectators’ delight.

Inspired by the legendary Dasarathi Pattanaik of Udayapur, Nayagarh (founder of the famous museum and library at his birthplace) Akshya has thrown every thing into the ring for the sake of the museum. He has been going after collecting rare articles since 1988, and travelling extensively every nook and cranny of Odisha and abroad like a mad for the last two and half decades. “The 25-year-long intensified effort has not only enriched my museum, but also instilled confidence in me to transform it into a mammoth museum one day”, Pattanaik said.

A technical background multiplied by his passion, penchant and determination germinated creativity in him, which in turn yielded birth to an innovative concept. Laced with a mechanical engineering diploma, Er. Pattanaik preferred to do something different. Collected and preserved science and engineering-based objects and articles in general and mechanical, electrical and electronic gadgets in particular, he gradually marched ahead to establish an engineering museum. According to him, this is only of its kind in Odisha and third across the nation after BM Birla’s museum in Kolkata and another established by the Karnataka government in Bengaluru.

Ironically, his unique museum came into limelight, when he achieved the coveted “Srusti Samman” in 2008 on behalf of National Innovation Foundation (NIF) from senior Professor of IIM Ahmedabad and Executive Vice-President of (NIF) Prof. Anil Gupta, for establishing a science and engineering-based museum at his birthplace with his own effort and preserving those precious articles which were in a state of oblivion.

Armed with diploma in mechanical engineering in 1961 from Jharsuguda Engineering School, he began his service career as a Junior Engineer in the Salandi Irrigation Project in the same year. But confining himself within the manners and customs of government service, an uncompromised man like him felt suffocation. Therefore, he had no option but to quit that job after two years. Then he started a petrol pump business in partnership with a friend in Bhubaneswar. But that business too failed to allure him for a long run. Eventually, he bade goodbye to that trade and returned to his homeland.

Vowed to serve his own people on his home soil, he was elected unanimously the <sarpanch> of the Bolagarh Gram Panchayat in 1975 and was appointed the chairman of the Bolagarh Block in 1984. In 1997, he successfully led a 65-km-long massive cycle rally participated by 3000 farmers from Bolagarh to Bhubaneswar, to apprise the then Governor of Odisha of the state of irrigation in Bolagarh, one of the driest regions of the coastal Odisha. Always in the forefront of the farmers’ cause, he organised several agitations and demonstrations to make Bolagarh totally irrigated.

While plantation is another of his passion, he has already planted nearly one lakh mango saplings in the Begunia and Bolagarh blocks area during the last 35 years. In recognition to his contribution, he was awarded Prakrutibandhu award by the District Environment committee, Puri in 1988. He also played a major role in eradicating leprosy completely from Haripur village near Bolagarh in late eighties.

A social activist, environmentalist, antiquarian, numismatist and philatelist, all rolled into one, he is certainly a versatile person. An uncompromising man, who has made many a sacrifice for the sake of principles he holds dear, Er. Askhya Pattanaik is determined to live the rest of his life on his own terms. From a professional engineer to petrol pump owner and a politician to a social activist, he has seen life in all its colours. At 74, he is remaining as proud as unbending as ever, having witnessing many a see-saw of life, however, he has never comprised on his principles.

Though he has reached at the fag end of his life, he has not given up. At this age, he is as workaholic as ever, energetic and enthusiastic as a youth. “Though I have turned 74, age is not a constraint in my path. Riding my own bike and covering all the way from Bolagarh to Cuttack, Bhubaneswar etc. regarding the museum-related works, I have been thoroughly enjoying my life,” Pattanaik said.

Now the major obstacle he is facing is the acute space problem in order to place the precious collections of the museum in a systematic manner as these collections have been increased over the years. In fact, he has been running the museum within two small rooms at his residential house, due to which, most of the rare collected articles are neither being taken care of properly, nor could be exhibited to the visitors.

All he needs are 10 large halls at his village at a cost of Rs 50 lakh to erect a full-fledged museum. “Due to severe financial constraints the museum is yet to reach its peak,” Pattanaik said. Desperately loitering between the district and state government concerned departments for financial assistance, he is yet to earn the patronage of the government. But a mentally tough Pattanaik has never lost his patience in order to achieve his long-cherished dream.

He appeals the government to declare it a national level science museum and to provide grant in aid to fit the bill. Toiling hard for the last two and a half decades relentlessly he is fully optimistic about his long-standing dream, which would emerge into reality one day. Sitting within his two-room museum along with the hard got articles, he has been dreaming round the clock to convert his home-based museum into a state-level institution.

By Umakanta Panda from Bhubaneswar

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